tv [untitled] December 23, 2012 4:30pm-5:00pm PST
in conclusion i'd like to restate the department's categorical exemption fully addressed issues raised in the appellants submittal and no further issues have been raised regarding the accuracy of the categorcategorical exemption. under ceqa guidelines for class 1 and 4 exemptions. the appeal letters do not raise any new issues that were not disclosed or discussed in the exemption and do not provide evidence to substantiate a finding the project would result in it significant environmental impact. therefore, i urge you to uphold the department's categorical exemption and deny the appeal. this concludes my presentation and i'm available for questions if the board has any. thank you. >> president chiu: colleagues, any questions to planning? okay. seeing none, let's hear from the project sponsor, who will have up to 10 minutes for their
presentation. >> good evening, president chiu, members of the board of supervisors. my name is luis montoya. i am the project manager on the oak and fell pedestrian bicycle and safety projects. i wanted to give you background about why it's so important that we do it but i also wanted to respond to the matter at hand which is the ceqa appeal and some of the specific concerns that were raised by the appellants. as you know, this project has been on the front lines of this neighborhood for decades. ever since we've been talking about how to improve the bike network in san francisco and ever since we've been talking about how to increase pedestrian safety, oak street and fell street are three lanes in each direction, four lanes in some places, they carry 30,000-plus cars each day on each street. and people in this neighborhood and people who just move throughout the city have said that these streets don't feel
safe, they don't feel comfortable, please do something about it. and it took a while and it took some momentum to get us going but we finally did it. we finally brought the community together and we worked over nine months with a variety of stakeholders, local stakeholders, people throughout the city. and we came up with a plan. and that plan went before the mta board. they considered the policy merits of it and decided to pass it unanimously on october 16. again, i just wanted to emphasize because i think it's so important that we were able to engage so many people throughout the community and to come up with a plan that was balanced. and we considered several options. we considered removing a lane of traffic on oak street but oak street is very important for vehicle traffic and people throughout the city, in the western neighborhoods and as well in the eastern neighborhoods who use this street to access, you know, 19th avenue to get to the golden gate bridge or octavia to the 101 that it was important we not increase congestion.
i know appellants have stated this project will somehow increase congestion in the neighborhood but our detailed thorough analyze plainly states it won't. we are minimally affecting the road capacity by just removing a travel lane for two hours of the day. currently there's a fourth lane on two blocks of oak street for two hours of the day. and that is what we're planning on replacing with parking. we're also adding back -- sorry, we're also adding turning lanes on the street where they don't currently sphift s exist so that will facilitate turns. i think they try to make a common sense argument that, by removing parking or making any change to the street it's going to increase traffic congestion and it simply won't. also, a claim this they made was that the project will inhibit driveway access or inhibit access for people who need to get dropped off at their homes. again it simply won't. we have worked carefully with stakeholders from the pedestrian safety community, from the
bicycle safety community, from the disability advocates community, to come up with a plan to make sure that the facility designs so that it's flexible so it's wide enough that taxis, paratransit vehicles can access it, street sweeping can sweep the space, emergency accessing of course. we worked with members of the fire department and will continue to work with them as we refine the design to make sure it is working for everybody who needs to use that space. and also another thing that was brought up was about safety, and this is something that has driven the project from the start. the reason we came to do this project was because we wanted to increase safety for people who choose to ride a bike and people who would like to ride a bike and also people who walk in the neighborhood which is why the project includes 12 bulbouts throughout the project, to decrease the road with, we're also enhancing intersections to
make them more visible, we're adjusting traffic signal timing so they slow down the cars marginally. they will still able to progress smoothly but just doing it as a slower pace and that was really done to keep in mind the broad project goals that we brought forth, pedestrian safety, bike safety, and maintaining neighborhood livability. i can speak in detail about the project outreach that we've done, the three community meetings that we held at night on weekends, over 500 people that attended those meetings, 15 additional focus meetings with community advocates, with local neighbors, with business owners. and if you wish i could go on and on. but really i think what it comes down to as the supervisor's correctly pointed out is the merits of the ceqa appeal and i think the planning department did an excellent job of responding to those comments. with that i'll leave it to you and open it up for questions. >> president chiu: colleagues, any questions? okay. at this time, why don't we -- supervisor olague.
>> supervisor olague: one of the issues that keep coming up is the issue of the bulbouts. what is your response to that. >> as it was stated in the appeal, i believe supervisor, is what you're asking is that bulbouts will slow down traffic to the point that they should be analyzed as increasing traffic congestion. and really bulbouts, which are the corner widening of the sidewalk in order to increase visibility of people before they step off the curb and also, yes, to slow down cars as they turn it but really we looked at it and even if you looked at it in detail, and you said a car was slowing down it might be by a second and not every car is turning at every intersection where the bulbouts are. yes hopefully they will slow down to increase safety but it's not in any measurable way that it will increase congestion. >> supervisor olague: i think they were referring specifically to the two that were going to be i believe at broderick and fell.
is that right? >> right. >> supervisor olague: and they said there was some mention that it would have an impact on safety vehicles, and loading and unloading. i'm wondering if you could respond to that. >> yeah. that's a good point. mr. chapner pointed that out at the ta board hearing that we deleted one of the bulbs from the the proposal because of of the -- it was that felleti was saying they often double park their cars but you can't tell when they're coming so they have double parked trucks. they said when trucks are double parked you won't be able to make that turn. we had been working with them throughout the project and they were standing firmly in position to that one piece that one of the mta board members motioned that that particular bulb be deleted. but, again, i'll just confirm that all the bulbs have been looked at with turning radiuses
in mind to make sure that trucks, including emergency vehicle, could make those turns. >> supervisor olague: basically there are no longer two bulbouts there on that street. it's just been -- one has been eliminated. >> correct. >> supervisor olague: and then the other issue that someone mentioned was the traffic study. so i wonder if you could comment on that, that there was no traffic study but many of us were under the impression that there was a traffic study. and it seems to me -- and i was curious to know who conducted that study because there was some comment that it wasn't independent. i'm not quite sure what's meant by that but if you could elaborate a little bit that would be helpful. >> like i mentioned we've been studying this for a year now but it was nine months in the planning process and we conducted traffic counts, and it was mta staff who collected traffic count data. we had an independent party help us collect some of the bike data, but we also collected bike
data by ourselves. we collect our own speed surveys. and then our ma engineers built a traffic model, a simulation model, using industry accepted standards, the highway capacity manual, 2000 edition, collected by our staff, analyzed by traffic engineers and peer reviewed by another traffic license engineer and ther theres process with the planning department to further fine that to make sure we were capturing all aspects of the project. >> was that published? >> yes. that was part of the exemption -- the cat ex, categorical exemption. >> supervisor olague: this has more to do with the project because the issue keeps coming up and i don't really like to mix the two but we're here. and i heard this in the past, and i've discussed this already with the mta staff.
and the rationale and even with director reiskin, and that's the rationale behind not using the alternative routes, the paved street and these other routes that folks have proposed over the years. if you could comment on that, even though it doesn't relate to ceqa necessarily. >> sure. so the appellants, and also other members of the community have brought this up during the planning process, what they said was you should really do nothing, you should encourage people to ride on paige street and hayes street in that you shouldn't do anything to oak street and fell street. so we talked to the community about that and we said what if we just directed people to peaje street and hayes street and we won't do anything for people who walk and bike on fell. they said you have to execute more turns to get there, takes 20% longer and there's also hills. in fact in order to get up to paige from the panhandle it's
like a 12% grade. to put that in terms of energy expended it's about four times the amount of effort to get up that 12% grade as it would be to go down oak street as you normally would. so people said it's out of the way, it's slower, it's taxing on what's already a lot of people do a long commute from the west down to downtown. so it just was not a desirable route for people who ride a bike. some people choose to go that way. some people prefer to ride in mixed traffic on those streets, you know, streets and stop signs but more people would prefer to ride in a separate facility on oak and fell and that they would prefer traffic signals as opposed to the stop signs and on the flattest route. >> supervisor olague: how does this relate to the bike plan. is there any reference to some of these projects? >> actually the planning department could probably speak better to that. >> to answers your question,
supervisor olague, the oak street introduction of a new bike lane on oak street was included as a long-term improvement project in the bike lane, but did not receive specific environmental review because the project designs were not available, or weren't created for the best specific project. other aspects of the project fall under the minor improvements that were outlined in the bike plan, and those are, you know, the different advanced -- lines and -- boxes and things like that. and those are -- those were the only aspects of the project that were outlined in the bike plan eir. >> supervisor olague: traffic lanes aren't removed. >> no. it's just only the oak street and am commute traffic lane being removed. >> supervisor olague: for a couple of hours? >> that's just turning -- they're using -- literally create that bike lane. >> supervisor olague: thank
you. >> president chiu: colleagues, any other questions to the mta? seeing none, why don't we hear now from members of the public that wish to speak on behalf of the project sponsor, ask folks if you can keep your comments to less than two minutes. first speaker please. >> my name is lawrence lee, i'm on the board of lower haight merchants and neighbors association. i would like to reiterate that yeah, we were involved with extensive outreach that the city put on. and during all that outreach, members of the community were invited to weigh in on various options, and elements. and the solution that was eventually approved was something that we were in favor of, which included minor alterations to the existing conditions that namely traded parking for safer travel for bicycles and pedestrians. so with that in mind, we support
planning department determination of the project's exemption because the appeal does not support our neighborhood's need for improved safety for the residents, or visitors coming into our neighborhood. and this project is very important. it does serve our neighborhood significantly. in fact, delays to this project would be harmful to our safety and we're quite concerned about that. so we urge you to always uphold these type of exemptions because, you know, this is how we are able to make improvements to our neighborhood. thank you. >> president chiu: next speaker please. >> good evening, supervisors. i'm elizabeth stampe, executive director of walk san francisco. and i'm here to encourage you to reject this appeal and affirm
the planning department's decision to get these improvements happening as soon as possible on fell and oak, to calm traffic, and improve safety. these include 12 new bulbouts as you've heard, a shortened crossing district distance and increased visibility, and add new street greening. the traffic signals will be adjusted for lower speeds, safer speeds. these are important fixes to make some of the highest speed streets in our city closest to our most beloved park more safe for people walking. it clearly -- this project clearly falls into a categorical exemption from a full environmental review. it is clearly minor. and a reversal of the exemption would really set a bad precedent, forcing full reviews on traffic calming projects, even small scale fixes like bulbouts as well as other
sustainable design improvements. a reversal would delay not only these current improvements that are much-needed as the previous speaker said on fell and oak, but critical projects in the future. we need safer streets sooner, not with more delays. so thank you very much. >> good evening, supervisors. my name is jason henderson, i'm with the hayes valley neighborhood association. the hvna enthusiastically endorsed this project and we ask that you reject this appeal. i've participated in multiple meetings on this project. there was a thorough public process. density has been mentioned. the real problem that we acknowledge in hayes valley is the density of cars is the real problem, not the density of people. in fact, we're disappointed that the fell and oak project didn't reduce a lane and look at the
whole corridor. but that's another matter and we understand compromise. and so removing the parking was the compromise. and there's no significant impact on automobile intersection level of service, as much as i would like us to get away from using that metric, i do understand that metric and this project has thoroughly looked at that. therefore, there is no impact on transit, the 16x. the impacts on pedestrians is only positive. so there's no significant environmental impact there. and the impacts on bicycles is only positive. so there's no significant impact there. some of the other issues raised were noise. that struck me as kind of interesting. in my own understanding of transportation noise, the faster you go, the noisier it gets. so by calming and slowing traffic, you have less noise. the safety issue, slower traffic
is safer. so the air quality issue struck me. this is a conundrum in regional planning. the general direction, and particularly with ceqa, is to look at the regional air quality and the regional greenhouse gas emissions. the way you do that is to reduce the vehicle miles traveled. this is the kind of project that gets you to your 20% most -- >> good evening, supervisors. my name is morgan fits gibbons here on behalf of the wig party. we work to make the wiggle more sustainable and resilient. i'm here to make a couple of points on behalf of the hundreds and hundreds of people in our organization that live in the neighborhood. the first point has already been mentioned is that this plan was born through a terribly expensive community process, and
kudos to the mta for leading a great process. so this is definitely the will of the people. people want their bike lanes on fell and oak. the second point is from may to october, a full five months, the only thing that was happening on this project was the planning department was addressing this very issue of the environmental impact report and if we're now going to go back and look over their work and double back i think maybe we should just consider firing the entire planning department, mak maybe e can solve some of our budgetary issues this evening. the third issue is -- i'm sure the members of the board are well aware that in 1973 your predecessors passed a law that made san francisco a transit first city. here we are 40 years later talking about removing a bike lane because there are too many private automobiles that will be going around looking for parking. we're not talking about doing initiatives to improve car share or the hundreds of people who will not have to use a car
because of these bike lanes. we're talking about removing a bike lane for private automobiles which is so profoundly idiotic. i think it really boggles the mind. the last point is really to reiterate what i told mta board which is that we're living in a time -- crisis this is a time when we need bold action. we don't need two and a half years of looking at six blocks on fell and oak. we have other cities laughing at us, chicago, minneapolis, portland, new york. i encourage you to reject the appeal. thank you. >> president chiu: walter, his you've already participated in this public comment. no, you can't, actually. thank you. are there any other members of the public that wish to speak in public comment on behalf of the project sponsor? okay. why don't we invite back the appellants for up to three minutes for their rebuttal.
>> good evening, mark brennan. mta and mea have not demonstrated class 1 or a categorical exemption exists. there is no bike lane that currently exists. the changes are not minor alterations because onstreet parking will be removed, concrete plantares and buffers added and a commute lane added -- during commute hours. in order to rely on a categorical exemption agency must provide substantial echedz thaevidence that the project is within the exempt category. they have not conducted a transit analysis that cover the second area and cumulative impacts only rhetoric. the city has a duty to
investigate the impacts a project will have. categorical exemptions are not absolute. an exemption must be denied if there is reasonable possibility of a significant effect on the environment due to unusual circumstances. or if, quote, significant cumulative impacts from projects of the same type will result. this plan will cause significant direct secondary and cumulative impacts, increase delays on oak, fell, and intersecting streets due to direct and secondary parking impacts, signal timing changes amounted cumulative impact on traffic and public safety due to removal of parking, embedments to turning, access to and from the 31 curb cuts that will be affected and reduced visibility on such busy corridors. the masonic avenue bicycle project is only three blocks away yet the city claims they do not overlap so this should not be studied. the masonic plan will remove 167 parking spaces and all commute
lanes. there is a target store planned on masonic and geary which will add to the traffic in the area. removing the commuter lane, adding raised plantares throughout the buffer strip and removing over 90 parking spaces constitutes an unusual circumstance of the project. proposed parking mitigation peat adequate. this is a highly dense touristy area and a main east-west corridor. there's no one else -- impact on neighboring streets such as hayes paige and haight street. part six -- is a priority street. finally, because the fell and oak project is obviously part of the greater plan to create bike lanes ceqa analysis should be done in connection with the eir for the san francisco bicycle plan project not piecemealed from the larger project that is ceqa rule.
determination -- the determination made no effort to address the fell oak project in the larger context of the citywide bicycle projects. >> president chiu: thank you very much. colleagues, any final questions to the appellants, project sponsor or any other parties in this hearing? okay. seeing none, this hearing's been held and closed. colleagues, this item is in the hands of the board. supervisor olague. >> supervisor olague: i just wanted to move to affirm the exemption determination of the san francisco mta and agency fell and oak streets bikeways projects so my motion would be to affirm the determination of the planning department that the san francisco fell and oak project is exempt from environmental review. >> president chiu: motion made toaire firm the categorical exemption tabling items 42, 43, seconded by supervisor campos. discussion? supervisor wiener. >> supervisor wiener: thank you, mr. president.
you know, i just want to -- i think i made this point when i was questioning the appellant about how important it is to understand that this appeal is not an appeal on the merits, that is not what this board does. the mta board directors was entrusted by the voters to make these policy decisions. and that's where a lot of the arguments were raised tonight in opposition to this project are i'm sure were directed at the mta board of directors and that was the appropriate forum. this is about ceqa. and one can love or hate this project, but this is about our application of ceqa. and i do believe that if we were to require an eir tonight, we would be setting a significant precedent for future efforts to do all sorts of different projects to improve safety on our streets, whether you're -- because if you require an eir to remove net 55 parking spots what
about adding net 55 parking spots what about taking a surface parking lot and -- a building there and remove those parking spots would that require a full eir for a two story building that i'm building or if you are building a bunch of bulbouts it would create a significant precedent in my view. and so i think that the planning department's determination was correct, and i will be supporting the affirmation of the cat ex. >> president chiu: supervisor elsbernd. >> supervisor elsbernd: if there's any reason to support his efforts on ceqa reform this last hour and a half should be something that you keep in your memory banks as you consider that legislation next year. >> president chiu: supervisor farrell. >> supervisor farrell: i want to associate my comments with supervisor wiener and president chiu in your comments earlier in your questioning, appreciate the argument on the merits here. i empathize with a number of them but this is not the place. this is a ceqa appeal.
i agree with president chiu's question so i will be supporting the -- upholding the eir as well. >> president chiu: supervisor chu. >> supervisor chu: i want to thank the appellants for coming to speak. taking a look at the project itself there are things i support, that will improve the safety of the residents in the area, including the bulbouts and a number of other aspects. the area i'm not so comfortable with is the parking issue. i think that impact is something that unfortunately i would like to see less parking being lost as a result of the improvements. that being said, there is an exemption within ceqa for this kind of a project and because of that, in applying those rules, i think that we need to actually uphold this exemption. and so unfortunately, i won't be voting to do -- or to uphold your appeal at this moment but again i do think that the parking issue is a large one. >> president chiu: any further discussion? mr. clerk, roll call vote on the
motion. >> supervisor farrell, aye. supervisor kim, aye. supervisor mar, aye. supervisor olague, aye. supervisor wiener, aye. supervisor avalos, aye. supervisor campos, aye. >> president chiu, aye. >> supervisor chu, aye. >> supervisor cohen, aye. >> supervisor elsbernd, aye. mr. president, we have 11 ayes. >> president chiu: the motion passes the categorical exemption is affirmed. colleagues, why don't we go back to general public comment. and hear from members of the public that wish to speak near generally. if i could ask members of the public to excuse yourself from the chamber quietly so we can continue with business. let's hear from the first speaker please. walter. >> thanks. finally. when are you going to get a movie here? when are you going to get some work for us. i thought of a new movie that a
supervisor finishes a long term and then he goes in this movie right to the airport, he's gone. leaves -- you ever seen the movie, the stepfather? it sounds like a good -- a little change of a movie. but it sounds like a good one. he leaves the city, just leaves it after that. and thanks for being here. thanks for your work, supervisor elsbernd. and thanks for elsbernd being in your morning, thanks for being here in our nights. ♪ thanks for changing whatever's wrong, and make it right. ♪ let me wander through this wonderland that the city we do share, and i thank you for always being there.